Helsinki Biennial is back in spectacular archipelago setting, and on the mainland

Bringing together 29 international artists and collectives to explore alternative ways of living in, and understanding, the world.
June 13, 2023

Between June and September 2021, the inaugural edition of Helsinki Biennial welcomed 145,000 to Vallisaari island — a 20-minute boat ride from the city centre — and many more to art experiences in other locations.

Last weekend, the second edition opened on the former military logistics island, and at HAM Helsinki Art Museum and the wider city. Named New Directions May Emerge, the participants are curated by Joasia Krysa with five curatorial collaborators and highlight environmental damage, political conflict, the impact of technology and other urgent issues of our time. It comprises around 50% new commissions and site-specific works that span installation, sculpture, film, and performance. At Vallisaari in the Helsinki archipelago, 15 artworks will be situated, both outdoors and within its historical gunpowder cellars. Krysa explains that the event is influenced by various things.

— It gathers ideas from an eclectic mix — from natural science and cosmology, the supernatural and artificial intelligence, data science and science fiction, and the sense-making practices of humans and nonhumans, she says.

Suzanne Treister — Technoshamanic Systems. Photography: Sonja Hyytiäinen

Installed in a wooden cabin on the island, Technoshamanic Systems by Suzanne Treister presents microcosmic non-colonialist plans for alternative visions of survival on Earth. Her watercolour paintings are accompanied by a new AR component which makes them appear to float up in the sky. Jenna Sutela’s Pond Brain is a water-filled bronze bowl expanding upon the shape of the artist’s head and uses machine learning technology to create a soundscape based on signals from the wider environment, such as sounds from outer space and under the sea. Works by Bita Razavi, Tabita Rezaire, Tuula Närhinen, INTERPRT, and Diana Policarpo will take over the large arched halls and a gallery space at HAM Helsinki Art Museum. The latter’s installation consists of massive, rock-shaped sculptures with embedded video and sound which investigate how humans treat the world as their property. 

— The biennial is both internationally ambitious while remaining a truly local event, says Arja Miller, Director of HAM Helsinki Art Museum. Global challenges, such as biodiversity loss and the climate crisis, affect us all. In this time, we need fresh ways of understanding, perceiving, and finding answers to difficult questions. Artists have a special skill to give new forms to history, places, feeling, and thought: their artworks can represent the present and create the future.

Jenna Sutela — Pond Brain.